Misguided vanity

As a teenager in the UK, I had a few part time jobs. The first was serving takeaway fish and chips in a timber framed shop with higgledy-piggledy floors, ceilings, windows and doors. It was located in a high street where the buildings appeared to have collided into each other.

The income paid for uniforms, chef’s knives, and books, required for study. Following the start of a two-year sandwich course*, I was informed I needed to get experience working in a more superior hospitality business. I was fortunate in securing the role of banqueting waiter at a half timbered C16th hotel.

The business was purchased by a local hotel group, leading to my first redundancy and redeployment. The new hall porter position was located at a grand C19th mansion, turned hotel and function centre. The group also ran the lido in the town. Each Summer staff had the opportunity of working in the lido kiosk.

As my heritage is more Northern European than Mediterranean, my pasty white limbs would sear to a deep vermilion when flaunted in the sun. In order to protect my fragile ego I opted to succumb to packaged promises of golden to bronzed litheness.

Quelle horreur and indignity I endured exposing the resulting patchy brown reality!

*a training course with alternate periods of formal instruction and practical experience.

Halloween thoughts

I was going to write that I’d been thinking for a while it feels like we’re in a holding pattern. Being in limbo, on the way to something, somewhere.

Today I realised, pondering on an unknown future takes me away from enjoying the present. Where we are now, so much to celebrate.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Previously, shortly after turning fifty, I was checking out retirement living.

Another thought occurred to me while showering: Is it foolish to accept a nagging want to not grow old, opening a world of risk?

Conscious over indulgence leading to an early death.

Avoiding enjoyment in the present, in case, prematurely, the reaper calls. Disappointment in the extreme to embrace life when death comes knocking!

Living one’s purpose

Five learnings from my journey of service to others

Beware the drama triangle
Take a moment to step back, assess the situation. Are characters from the drama triangle* about to draw me in? I aim to be objective and assist participants to find a way out.

I learned the hard way, taking on the part of Rescuer often led to situations that compromised one of my core values, integrity.

Self limiting practises suck
I have often found myself tied up in my own self limiting practises due to making assumptions, skewed perception, self doubt, and misguided self reliance. This led to missed opportunities for me to assist others to develop, poorer quality outcomes and my own burnout.

Fear of failure; bunny in the headlights
I cannot overstate the sheer horror and inner trauma of being faced with the threat of not achieving a goal, in my service to another.

The worst was realised by the refusal of a stakeholder to cooperate. This brought forth significant flight or fight responses.

Having clear measures of success, being prepared for resistance and exploring collaboration rather than drawing battle have helped me since.

Being ‘helpful’ or taking over
When I first started coaching, I observed myself wanting to jump in to help by taking over. An urge, almost too hard to resist.

What a relief it was to understand the benefits of others’ active participation in decision making, problem solving and learning processes. The person being coached is imbued with freedom during the journey and has ownership of the outcome.

Resilience
Resilience to deal with this time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. For an emotional soul such as I, it’s important for me to to not take things personally; stick my head in the sand, or become a victim.

Acceptance of the way things are grants permission to move forward.

*Dr Stephen Karpman developed a dynamic model of social interaction and conflict, calling it the ‘drama triangle’. Three participants take the roles of ‘rescuer’, ‘persecutor’, ‘victim’. I recommend reading How to opt out of the drama triangle.

Finding one’s purpose

In my early fifties, I spent years in dismal dismay, scratching around in search of my purpose. Prior to this, I seemed to be caught in the blissful raptural ignorance of youth.

Being fortunate to have a supportive line manager, I took full advantage of personality testing and coaching. Even though the purpose remained elusive, calls to the Universe for insight and inspiration were released.

Significant changes to career, house, and home state proved to be the catalyst of self realisation. The act of job seeking necessitated repetitive review, refinement, and honing of one’s resumé, cover letter, and application. This led to a need to identify the goals of the 30 plus roles, performed to date. The list was prioritised and filtered according to length of tenure. This drew together and consolidated many threads, distilling them into a single purpose.

The result, service to others. I do this by engaging problem solving, creativity, authenticity, and time management skills.

Doubting Thomas

How smug I once was, and will be again, I’m sure. Liking to think I was lithe at forty and poo-pooing physiotherapy. Even when I injured my shoulder, lifting weights for vanity’s sake. Other injuries and increasingly sedentary work roles followed.

Fighting the flab in my fifties almost seems too hard a battle to even try to win. I know investment in my health is required to smooth the passage through my twilight years. I’m still working out when they start.

Ten months into a role in supporting injured workers through their rehabilitation has opened my eyes, personally and professionally, to the miracle work of the physiotherapist.

Most recently, I applaud the weekly direction of an exercise physiologist. Damian is teaching me how to get up off the floor without using my hands. Also, how to exercise again starting with Bird Dog*. I believed my decrepitude, dwindling willpower, and self motivation had reached the point of no return, apparently not. I always perform best when I’m doing something for someone other than myself.

Avoiding the scales during the covid crisis, exercising less, and overindulging has resulted in a weight gain of five kilos. My weigh-in, a personal best of 99 kg, 218 lb or 15st 8lb 5oz, what a pity I’m not 2 metres tall. Humpty Dumpty is my pin up goal, now my waist measures 114cm, almost 45”. A 4XL teeshirt is so comfy these day, especially on a beach with Stan.

Time, they say, will tell how and where this doubting Thomas will end up.

*The Bird Dog is a go-to move for stabilizing and strengthening your shoulders, core, and low back. Well-known for simultaneously engaging the shoulders, abdominals, lower back, gluteal, and thigh muscles.

Epiphanic pasties

As an introvert, I internalise thoughts, plans, and visual goals. This melding of components, under extreme pressure, occurs unseen. Beads of perspiration may appear, due mainly to the subtropical climate.

The intuitive part of my personality loves to explore, discover, and try new things. In moments of pure idealism, perfection is obtainable. The reality, dear reader, frequently disappoints.

Being a perceptive, details sometimes elude me. If I read ‘fork’ in relation to finishing a pasty recipe, connections happen in my mind. Fork translates into crimping the pasty, rather than using it to create holes to vent the steam.

The love and emotion that is conjured to aid the creative process is boundless. The onion, carrot, and sweet potato are diced to regulatory perfection. Around a quarter the size of a sweet corn kernel. While the pastry is smooth, short, and even. Is it surprising, when pointed out after exiting the oven, the pastry is strange, the crimping Devonian rather than Cornish and the carrots and sweet potatoes undistinguishable from each other, feelings may explode?

The adult sized ‘Quornish’ pasties were an experiment. Accompanied with vegetarian gravy, deliciously satisfying.

Poetry revisited

I recently met a writer in a non-authoring situation. After completing a little background reading on them, I decided it was time.

I enjoy writing poems, but are they any good? When viewed through Olumide Holloway’s creative writing lens (Word Up), they mostly suck.

In the spirit of reflective self improvement I have revisited one of my ditties.

On a side note I learned that shaking the iPhone, in frustration, allowed me to undo the accidental deletion of said poem.

Tinsel

Polyvinyl chloride sparkle, eons in the making;

Irresponsibly procured, a token,

In an intergenerational

Treasure hunt for more,

now strewn.

Destined to voyage and become entwined,

In a grotesque ocean whirl.

To disintegrate and be consumed by

Zooplankton and coral; the primordial source.

Reports abound of microplastic laden seafood, served upon the plate.

Will it lead to ecocide and humanity’s suicide? Scientists debate.

Let me know if you think it is an improvement on the original, below, or not.

Incongruous

Beneath a hedge

Beyond leaf litter and bark

Draped over twigs

The blue tinsel-tousle dwells

Mutually beneficial 

There are people in my life who push my buttons, causing me to question my words and actions. Yesterday for example, the first email of the day was from a work colleague asking for  a meeting to discuss myself and my team moving out of our offices. Some of their people would be moving in next week. They appeared in my office, shortly after receiving news that I knew nothing about the relocation. We exchanged points of view in a jovial manner. I offered one of the desks in the area for one of their team members, as a stop gap measure.

A small time later I received another email from them, letting me know that they had no intention of kicking us out. I know that they are not the catalyst, there are more senior powers at work. The communication ended with the following “Sorry for the stressful start to your morning.” What had I done to elicit this statement? I had been reasonable, calm, and accommodating in my discussion with them; in no way stressed.

An article from fastcompany.com What Happened When I Stopped Saying “Sorry” at Work For a Week explains the positive impact on the apologiser of replacing “sorry” with “thank you”. If my colleague had thanked me rather than apologising, I would also have been spared my own negative feelings of self doubt.

Fifties fitness

New challenges at work will require peak physical and psychological performance, no more excuses. Time to do something about fitness in my fifties. 

Procrastinated for a year; moping and moaning in melancholic moodiness. Finally I shook off the can’t do attitude this morning. 

Only one other person in the gym. Fifteen minutes of cardio followed by forty five of weights has set me up for the day. Hoping I will be able to do it again tomorrow. 

Prickly Prima Donna

Ninety five percent of day, The epitome of calm;

Open, helpful, time for all.

As tiredness and workload mounts,

Only takes a look, a word:

(Grim genie unfurls slowly);

Heat building or voices too loud;

(Edging closer to release);

Interrupt or stand too close;

(Darkness oozes to stifle

My relaxed disposition). 

Prickly Prima Donna’s out! 

Unending madness ensues:

Unworthy; shame; guilt; despair.

Exit, take drama along.

Penning this poem is perfect

For regaining control. Back 

Towards the bottle she goes.